When Protest Leads to Positive Change: Louisville Passes Breonna’s Law in the Wake of Tragedy and Civil Unrest

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Photo Credits Erik Branch/The New York Times Steven Senne/AP Matt Shone/Courier Journal

In the wake of unthinkable tragedy and unacceptable social injustices against the Black community, our country — and the world — has taken a stand against hate and has taken a very vocal and undeniable stance against racist behavior that has led to countless preventable deaths. And while 2020 has certainly not been lacking for devastating loss, particularly for people of color and particularly at the hands of the police, peaceful protests and the coming together of a nation have been catalysts for much overdue change and reform that this country needs and the Black community so desperately deserves. 

And the murder of Breonna Taylor is one such tragedy that has catapulted the Black Lives Matter movement forward and has led to positive change in the city of Louisville and beyond.

On June 11th the Louisville, Kentucky Metro Council voted unanimously to ban no-knock warrants according to Breonna’s Law, a law named for Breonna Taylor, who was murdered in her own home on March 13th this year. The newly passed legislation also requires that police wear body cameras while serving warrants, and that those cameras be turned on five minutes prior to launching an operation in an effort to ensure that police officers do not enter a home without clearly identifying themselves and giving proper warning. This law is a strong attempt at setting an example for other cities in the crucial efforts to prevent police killings such as Breonna’s death.

On March 13th Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician, and her boyfriend Kenneth Walker were at home when police arrived to execute a no-knock search warrant as a part of a drug investigation in the middle of the night. They entered without announcing themselves, and mistakenly thinking that they were robbers, Walker fired at the police in self-defense. Officers then returned fire and shot Taylor at least eight times. Eight. Times. She later died and no drugs were found in their home. Since then there have been relentless cries for justice and people have been speaking Breonna’s name across the country in an effort to share her story and demand police reform to right this unspeakable wrong. After months of unrest and calls to arrest the officers involved in the shooting, who were not wearing body cameras at the time, change has finally come. 

The legislation was supported unanimously with zero opposition from the 26-member council, and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer vowed to sign the law immediately, stating “I plan to sign Breonna’s Law as soon as it hits my desk. I suspended use of these warrants indefinitely last month, and wholeheartedly agree with Council that the risk to residents and officers with this kind of search outweigh any benefit.” 

The passing of this law is not just an important step in the right direction to seek justice for Breonna, it’s also a sign of other changes to come to right the wrongs of 400 years of systemic racism and social injustices around the world. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul also introduced a bill this week to ban no-knock warrants — the type that led to Breonna Taylor’s death — called The Justice for Breonna Taylor Act. This bill bans federal law enforcement officers from carrying out a warrant “until after the officer provides notice of his or her authority and purpose” and blocks state and local law enforcement agencies that receive Justice Department funding from carrying out warrants that do not require the officer involved “to provide notice of his or her authority and purpose before forcibly entering a premises,” according to CNN

It comes at a time when protests continue against police brutality and when celebrities, civilians, supporters, athletes, politicians, CEOs and world leaders alike are demanding justice not just for Breonna’s death, but also the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and several other black victims. And the cries for police reform and justice seem to be working.

According to Benjamin Crump, the Taylor’s family attorney, this shift is all thanks to “every supporter, every protester, every young activist” and everyone who said Breonna’s name after her death. In addition to this much needed change of policy and this monumental shift in police accountability, the three officers who were involved in the shooting have since been placed on administrative leave during an investigation.

Breonna Taylor’s mom, Tamika Palmer, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that Breonna “would have been amazed to see the world changing.” As an EMT, she was dedicated to saving lives, and now the Breonna Taylor Law will do just that for generations to come.